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“Sometimes, My ADHD Looks a Lot Like Autism.”

“It seems like childhood was one long stretch of the world shouting that I was weird, and adulthood has been a long road of realizations that wait, no, I’m not weird—and neither am I [insert negative self-talk about laziness, spaciness, time-management, messiness, a need for sameness, etc.]. Unwinding those ugly beliefs has taken a lot of time and therapy.”

6 Comments: “Sometimes, My ADHD Looks a Lot Like Autism.”

  1. From what I have learned, one major difference between ASD and inattentive ADHD, is that inattentive ADHD can be helped with medication and I believe ASD is not. Please correct my if I am wrong.

  2. @Judykratchovil—yes—you are right. ASD and ADHD have a huge overlap and have many shared traits. Prior to 2013—one could not have a diagnosis of ADHD and ASD or (PDD) because the Autism/Asperger’s/Pervasive Developmental Disorders subsumed or incorporated all the ADHD traits and behaviors. Now, clinicians see that they are both related and often comorbid.

    @FaithJ—i have read that Giftedness is both a neurodivergent condition and is associated with other neurodivergent conditions as well. In my family, that is very much the case. Even with my son who has severe autism (Level 3 Autism) and a mixed receptive language disorder—he has demonstrated exceptional intelligence even if his ADHD is so profound that he cannot finish an intelligence test and has a recorded score that is low enough to give him an intellectual disability status and has allowed him to be labeled mentally disabled and placed in special Ed classes. However, he was reading at three due to his Hyperlexia. He also has been classified as a math savant and will— as of next semester —be placed in all standard education classes with the exception of attending some gifted and talented math classes (as far as we have been told) so within even the most severe autism in my son—there is a level of Giftedness even with his simultaneous learning disabilities and language disorder. This has been true for me and all my children with other forms of ASD and ADHD. All of my children and I and my nephew niece, sister and father have other comorbid conditions to the ASD —such as ADHD, OCD, and Bipolar or Mood disorders. We all also have been either diagnosed or classified as Gifted, having extreme splinter skills or have been labeled a savant. So yes—I believe you are right—Giftedness and savantism must be a huge part of neurodivergent conditions or as I like to say— the neurodivergent spectrum.

  3. I relate to this article but in reverse. I was diagnosed as on the ASD spectrum at age 38. Everyone always thought I had ADHD until college when a clinician suggested I get tested for ASD. I sometimes appear to have ADHD manifestations. I am wondering if it is possible for ASD to sometimes show ADHD traits. I also have PTSD. My Psychiatrist does not believe that I have clinical ADHD. Is it possible that ASD sometimes shows as ADHD traits?

  4. This article caught my attention because I have also wondered if I have Asperger’s because social interaction is… not difficult, but “abnormally” uncomfortable. I’ve always decided no because that’s the only symptom I’m aware of having. My son was diagnosed as Bipolar. I read all the info the doctor gave us and he didn’t fit anything! (I think some doctors see only their specialty.) What he has is Anxiety with a side order of ADHD which exacerbate and trigger depression when he’s under stress. When not stressed, he’s happy and hyper focused on something that interests him–not manic at all.

    I was just as fascinated with cschmitt’s and tcooke’s comments. Everything altogether reminded me of an article I read years ago. I can’t remember where, or by whom, so I can’t attest to its veracity, but it still makes sense to me. It wasn’t talking about crossover symptoms, but pointed out that ALL of these diversities are on the same genetic string along with intelligence. (I think high intelligence can be considered a neurodiversity.) I don’t remember if it was in the article, or just me wondering, if higher intelligence is a bonus because we need it to deal with these issues, or if intelligence triggers them genetically somehow. But that doesn’t really matter to me and intelligence by itself, along with every other diversity, is misunderstood and not a simple thing. I think tcook is right that eventually these will all be understood as variations of one neurodiversity. Especially if they really are all genetically close.

  5. I agree with cschmitt’s comments above. The problem with distinguishing between inattentive ADHD and Autism is that even trained professionals cannot do it all the time. Every single one of my 4 children has been profiled and or diagnosed as having ADHD AND Autism. I was diagnosed with Bipolar, Schizophrenia, hyperkinesis, sensory processing disorder, OCD, and Schizoaffective Bipolar type disorder, and Giftedness as a teenager. This was before there was an Asperger’s diagnosis. It wasn’t until I had been off all meds for 30 years and was still moody, quirky, considered eccentric— but —otherwise— functioning AND after all my children and my nephew and niece all had Autism diagnoses and comorbid ADHD traits and other neurodivergent conditions traits or diagnoses that I was finally diagnosed with Autism. Everything else I was diagnosed with together actually was Autism. So, I don’t think you can rule out Autism. In ten years, it could be that inattentive ADHD will be part of the Autism spectrum. Look, I always wonder if I have inattentive ADHD, too, because most people in my family have both. I read up on ADHD all the time for my kids and myself. I honestly have a hard time distinguishing between Inattentive ADHD and Asperger’s/Level one Autism, but if I say I have ADHD because it used to be that Autism, Asperger’s and PDDs had so many ADHD traits within them, I doubt I would be considered to be offensive to anyone with inattentive type ADHD even if I don’t have a diagnosis of ADHD. I mean it’s about unifying the neurodivergent community. There are more similarities between inattentive ADHD and some types of Autism than there are similarities between different people with different types of Autism—as far as my autistic family members go. Anyway—I don’t think it’s “gross” to claim you might be Autistic. Different doctors will tell you different things. My guess is you and your husband have both inattentive ADHD and Autism. Honestly, I think that Inattentive ADHD and Autism are the same condition. That’s just my guess based on my life in my Multiplex Autism and multiply neurodivergent family.

  6. I relate to so much in this article and I deeply appreciate this experience being highlighted and brought to light. There was one thing that really triggered me, however; repeatedly saying claiming a neurodivergency you don’t have is “gross.” I understand what the author is trying to say, but this is a really shame-filled presumptuous statement that assumes people do this on purpose. There is so little accessible information on ADHD symptoms and how it presents differently across all types of people. Most people are unaware of just how much symptomatic crossover there is between ADHD and ASD, and for someone with mild ASD symptoms who understands ADHD as the general public understands it (hyperactivity, easily distracted, unable to maintain focus, loud or often interrupting), they might genuinely think they have ASD when in fact they have inattentive ADHD. I have always struggled a lot socially and felt like an outsider who is incapable of communicating effectively with most people. I’ve always imitated sounds, gestures, vocal inflections I pick up from others instinctively. I have immense difficulty maintaining eye contact with people most of the time. I have concentrated interests that I hyper-focus on and know everything about, like music and LOTR. Once I started becoming aware of these things, I genuinely thought I had what was formerly referred to as Asperger’s, which now falls under the umbrella of ASD. After seeking out a diagnosis I was told I didn’t have ASD but was diagnosed with ADHD, and I was confused because what I knew about ADHD and even the way my doctor explained it didn’t align with my experience and I still was convinced I was undiagnosed ASD. I now understand from reading many articles on ADDitude that ADHD can look like mild ASD for many people, but the world just doesn’t see it that way yet. Most people and even medical professionals have no clue what ADHD really looks like and how our complete experience is defined. I’m sure there are lots of people out there claiming neurodivergencies they don’t have because they just don’t know how they are different and are trying to identify with something that makes sense to them. “Gross” is just a really shameful word and I don’t think is really has a place in this otherwise awesome article.

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